My first Boxing Day experience working as an attendant at the City’s recycling depots was a memorable one. I remember how the bins were overflowing with cardboard, boxes and paper and it seemed that there was at least twice as much material as usual. It turns out I was pretty close in my estimation, and not only when it comes to recycling.

In 2012, the volume of garbage and recyclables collected during the two weeks after Dec. 25 was 12,793 tonnes, compared to 5,666 tonnes two weeks before. With recycling alone, the City collected almost 3,000 tonnes of material. While this number shows the enthusiastic voluntary participation of Edmontonians in our recycling programs, it still means that waste doubles during the holiday season.

There are several things we can do during the Holidays to help reduce the amount of waste produced. This can be as simple as giving experiences as gifts, planning for leftovers, wrapping gifts with reusable materials and decorating for lasting memories. I personally enjoy a family soup recipe that uses turkey bones and leftover vegetables.

We want to hear from you. Join our Waste-Less Holidays contest and share what you do to reduce waste during the holidays―via FacebookTwitter (using the hashtag #wastelessholidays) or comment on this blog post. We will feature some of the best ideas along with other Holiday waste-reduction tips on

The prize? A family pass to a City recreation facility and the Muttart Conservatory—a great waste-free gift for the Holidays! Entries must be submitted before midnight MDT on Thursday, December 19, 2013. Check our full contest rules and regulations.

To get you started, please find below some waste-reduction tips for the holiday season from our Master Composter Recyclers.

When it is time to clean up from the Holidays, it is important to not let a bit of excessive garbage or recycling overwhelm you. Check our What Goes Where Poster and Holiday Recycling page for details on how to sort your waste. Items like Christmas lights and large decorations can cause problems at the recycling sorting facility. Watch this video to see where your recycling goes, and why it is important to ‘know before you throw’.

Waste-Less Holidays tips:

Start a tradition of making your own edible ornaments. Spend quality time with your family to make gingerbread ornaments and popcorn and cranberry garlands while listening to Christmas music. Waste is nearly nil when you eat your ornaments before taking down your Christmas tree.

―Roch L


Buy second-hand. I bought a few trucks at a garage sale this summer and stashed them away for our toddler for Christmas.

―Nicola T


Set up a craft table for kids during holiday events or parties. The crafts can be made from items found at the Reuse Centre.

―Roger B


Make gift bags from envelopes. Learn how.

―Kylie G


I have been saving my mandarin orange boxes to use as containers. This Christmas I am going to have my kids paint them instead of using wrapping paper and put gifts inside them. It reuses the boxes as well as reduces the wrapping paper I use.

―Kristin A


During the Holidays, I try and reduce waste by crocheting items for my loved ones instead of buying gifts that include pesky packaging. I also use re-usable gift bags and colourful gift boxes instead of wrapping paper.  

―Tara Y


Happy Holidays―and remember the three Rs―Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!


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About the Author
Myles Curry
Myles has worked with Waste Management Services for a number of years, starting as a recycling depot attendant and then moving through community relations to a marketing coordinator position. He is currently taking on the challenges of reducing Edmonton's waste and the safety risks for our collectors. Myles has a passion for understanding the details of Edmonton's waste and never turns down an opportunity to get a closer look at our garbage or chat about recycling.
  1. Thuy
    5 years ago

    Use newspaper as wrapping paper.

  2. Jonnie
    5 years ago

    Sew up some reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper. You can reuse the ones that stay in your house year after year. The recipients can reuse the ones you give to people outside of your home.

  3. Danielle
    5 years ago

    Every year for as long as I can remember, we have been trying to reduce our waste over the holiday season. We use reuse able cloth gift bags, save all the bows, ribbons and even gift labels for use again later, and we try to ensure that any wrapping material we do use can be recycled and used again. Every year before christmas, we go through our old coats and clothing and donate what we can to shelters in the city. We don’t waste a scrap of our Christmas Turkey, we use the bones and left over meat to make soup and we save our aluminum turkey pan for use the next year. Essentially the less you put on the street as far as garbage or recyclable items, the better it is for the environment and our beautiful City.

  4. Kirsten
    5 years ago

    I’m giving gifts that are either homemade/edible or actually needed–no hitting the malls for me this year!

  5. kashif
    5 years ago

    ditch paper towel and paper napkin and paper plates/cups. they are major waste during the festive season. We should be using reusable plates, mugs and cloth napkin.

  6. Sharon
    5 years ago

    For kids, why not hide items the night before Christmas around the house and give them hints to find their gifts. No wrapping paper required and will make gift opening or in this case gift finding last longer by turning it into a game.

  7. Suzanne Lewis
    5 years ago

    I use last year’s calendars to wrap gifts and then recycle the paper once gifts are open.

    When hosting a party, I don’t use items designed to be thrown out like paper plates, party poppers, paper napkins, paper cups or plastic cutlery.

    I always bring my own reusable plates, cups, cutlery to potluck events where I don’t know real serving ware is going to be used.


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